Greenstone is the tale of a beautiful, missionary-educated Māori woman (Simone Kessell) whose romantic life is subject to the shifting loyalties of her father, Chief Te Manahau (George Henare). The cross-cultural elements of this ambitious colonial bodice-ripper were reflected off-screen as well: created by Greg McGee in response to a call by TV One for a local drama 'saga', the series saw major English creative input through being developed as a co-production with the BBC. After the withdrawal of BBC funding, the Tainui Corporation helped fund the eight-part series.
Based on an overseas format, Touchdown reality series Captive was based on a simple idea: five strangers move into a penthouse apartment and as long as they want to stay in the competition, they cannot leave. Luckily there is motivation, in the form of prizes worth up to $40,000. Contestants are quizzed not only on trivia, but on their fellow housemates. At the end of each episode, whoever fared worst in the quiz is evicted from the house empty-handed, and replaced. Alliances are formed and new friendships broken as they attempt to get to know each other.
Onetime All Blacks Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge cemented their on screen partnership with late 90s show Fresh-up in the Deep End. The Touchdown series saw the pair taking their lovable, duelling larrakin personas to a variety of locations: they did time in the armed services, the circus, flash restaurant Petit Lyon, and as butler and chauffeur to model Rachel Hunter. They also launched their own political party, did the Coast to Coast, and tried a variety of dance moves. Fresh-up in the Deep End ran for two seasons.
Coming Home chronicled Kiwi successes abroad, by profiling New Zealanders living and working overseas, then following them back to Aotearoa when they made a return visit. Each episode of the Touchdown Productions series was grouped roughly geographically, with two or three expat New Zealanders featured per episode. Among those reminiscing upon home and opportunity were businesswoman Mary Quin, motor racing legend Steve Millen, journalist Peter Arnett, model Kylie Bax, psychologist John Money, law lecturer Judith Mayhew and singer Patrick Power.
Flipping reality television on its head, this 2004 show saw Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam Chambers competing on a reality series, unaware he was the only real thing on it. The Kiwi take on American cable TV hit The Joe Schmo Show was produced by Touchdown Productions. Writers and cast (some of whom had never acted before) had to adapt to unexpected alliances and events, while Mark Ferguson revelled in the role of smarmy host, crossing lines of acceptable behaviour with some of the contestants. When the ruse was finally revealed, Chambers got $50,000 in prize money.
Company Touchdown Productions dominated Kiwi reality television in the early 2000s, thanks to a run of shows (Miss Popularity, The Chair, DIY Rescue). In 2004 they produced The Player, which featured a group of bachelors housed together in an apartment, exuberantly ‘playing’ the Auckland dating scene. Hosted by model Nicky Watson, the series was short-lived. Later Duncan Greive of website The Spinoff would proclaim that the show "remains one of the earthiest and most brilliantly base moments in New Zealand’s television history.”
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a short-lived existence: in 1975 the newly-elected National government was determined to streamline television's high number of news and current affairs shows. However, the show made its mark with its infamous interview between PM Rob Muldoon and Simon (future Royal PR man) Walker, in which Walker has the temerity to ask questions not on Muldoon's sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through." Tonight did well to survive two years before getting axed.
In the Cold War 60s, thrillers peopled with jetsetting spies with shifty figures standing behind pillars in sunnies were all the rage (Danger Man, The Man from Uncle). Kiwi entry The Alpha Plan revolves around a British security agent who finds himself downunder, on the run, investigating strange disappearances amongst a Mensa-like society made up the planet's brightest brains. The ambitious six-part mystery thriller was the first Kiwi TV drama designed to go beyond one episode; positive reaction to the show paved the way for NZBC’s in-house drama department.
TVNZ’s Natural History Film Unit was founded in Dunedin around 1977. The first Wild South documentaries began filming a year later. The slot's initial focus was on New Zealand’s perilously endangered birds, eg the Chatham Island black robin (then the world’s rarest bird). The results won local and international notice, and a loyal audience. Wildtrack was a sister series showcasing natural history for young viewers. Wild South ended in 1997 when the Natural History Unit was purchased by Fox Studios; it later became internationally successful production company NHNZ.
This animated series for kids follows the adventures of germaphobic Stanley and feisty Mary-Jane. Sucked down a plughole into ‘Drainworld’, they help a plethora of plumbing creatures battle Dr Drain. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers, the series was NZ’s first official international animated co-production (between Chambers’ Flux Animation and Australian studio Flying Bark, run by Yoram Gross). The first series of 26 episodes screened on TV2 (NZ) and Channel Seven (Australia), and sold internationally. The NZ Herald called it “flush with fun”.